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Remington 597 VTR-A2

Pete Moore checks out Remington’s latest incarnation of their 597 semi-auto rimfire and finds a very M16-ized package

The apparent popularity of M16/AR15-style rifles has sparked off a lot of new designs over the years. Not counting the actual 22 LR drop on/in kits for the generic 223 gun, many semi-auto rimfires have been morphed to look like the black rifle and even offer a similar hi-capacity magazine. Typically the Ruger 10/22 started it all and the introduction of the Nordic Arms chassis system gave existing owners the chance to make their rifle into a look-a-like. Since then Ruger has capitalised on this with their dedicated SR22, which again uses Nordic components, though this time the gun is available as a complete unit.

Contender

Well now its Remington’s turn to come out of the closet with a similar design called the VTR. Using the 597 semi-auto action, which is their direct competition to the Ruger, though perhaps a tad more sophisticated. It offers an automatic, last round bolt hold open and free fall magazine. Inside the bolt runs on twin guide rods, which we are told improves reliability - along with the coated receiver. The 597 has been around for some time and offers the usual models – standard/synthetic, laminate, heavy barrel and even an Action Shooting rifle with shark-type profile stock. 
In terms of accuracy potential the major difference on the VTR is the heavy, 16” tube, which sits in a round, free-float forend; guns for the British market come threaded 1/2x20” UNF (with thread protector). Remington also shows a 4-Way version with Picatinny rails option. Moving back the action appears to use a similar drop-in/bolt-on exoskeleton concept to the Nordic Arms, though is not so heavy. Furniture consists of an M16 A2 pistol grip (single finger groove) with an A2 (fixed butt) completing the package. A collapsible (CAR15-type) stock is also available.
Typically there are no iron sights, though the receiver shows a high, 1” Weaver type rail. QD sling studs are fitted front to rear. Controls are simple with a cross bolt safety at the rear of the trigger guard – right to left – FIRE and reverse for SAFE. Just in front is the mag catch, which pulls backwards to dump the clip. There is an automatic hold open on an empty mag, but you can set is manually by pushing up the lock inside the well with your finger. The cocking handle reciprocates with the action and shows a decent size and shape.
The 597 comes with the standard 10-shot (quoted) flush-fit magazine as does the whole family, however Remington also offers a 30-round clip. One of these was supplied by the importers, which then puts the VTR on par with the tricked up 10/22s as an alternative for Action-type shooting.

Initial thoughts

My first thoughts went to ease of stripping, as I recall the Nordic Arms unit was a real pain with lots of screws to undo before you could get the bolt out. The 597 is similar though Remington have taken a slightly different approach, due to the fact the build uses front and rear action screws. The chassis is in two parts – rear butt/pistol grip assembly, front forend/support. Each holds to the receiver by the appropriate action screw.
To cover up the sides of the action and stop cross pins falling out that would normally be done by a standard stock Remington have screwed on side plates to the front and rear units. They have also taken the most unusual step of placing over the rear of the barrel; were it butts up to the forward assembly what appears to be a section of hose pipe. Not sure why, but if you want to remove the barrel from the action this has to be pushed forward (no mean feat) so you can move the front unit enough to access the barrel retaining system.
For basic bolt removal you need to take off the side plates, as that allows access to the single cross pin that holds the trigger mech housing in place. The 12-side plate screws are thread-locked in place and the slim 8/32” Allan key can easily round off the socket. Mine actually snapped off on one that would not shift. The method of fixing gives the impression the VTR was not meant to be taken apart that often. Truth is on all semi-autos; regular cleaning is paramount for reliability and the long-winded and awkward nature of the job and design does not help.

Moving on

That aside the M16 nature of the build offers all the easy handling we have come to expect. Remington have wisely included a small, set-back block at the front of the pistol grip, which makes a first pad finger position easy to achieve. It will also accept any after-market AR design too. The A2 butt is long though with the usual high comb, which in conjunction with the scope base being near parallel to the forend means medium/high mounts on scopes with objectives of 42mm +. The A2 unit visually does not do the VTR any favours, and I feel that most people wanting this rifle will plump for the collapsible (CAR15) option instead; I would!
For testing I fitted an S&B 3-12x50 Zenith with ammo being a cross section of makes – Remington, Lapua, SK, Eley and Winchester in all velocities including subs. Up front I put one of the new A-TEC 22 compact modular moderators (CCMs). As with previous 597s I found the mag was difficult to load to capacity, with eight being about the best I could get in initially. This eased up after a few boxes, but it’s still a thumb buster! The single column hi-cap clip proved the same so I backed off at about 25.
Initial testing was off a bag supported to determine best ammo, sub-sonic function and general handling. There’s no doubt the VTR can shoot with ½” @ 50-yards not being a problem, though I was a little surprised at the heavy trigger; especially as this is a more precision-style design.  It ran with all ammo types including sub-sonics. Where it fell down a little was reliability. Typically it all started off OK then after a few boxes there were failures with fired cases falling off the extractor and jamming the action and or partially clearing the ejection port. 
I traced this to the 10-shot magazine, as that fills up with firing residue, which causes the follower to jam, with symptoms like bolt deceleration doubtless adding to the erratic ejection characteristics. A strip and clean of the clip got the VTR up and running again. By this time it had eased up and I could now load it to capacity. I’d say I got around 100-rounds out of it before these problems occurred.
As I said the issue is with reliability and not accuracy as ½” @ 50-yards is very good. Where this my rifle I’d be inclined to get a few spare mags, run them in and rotate and clean them on a regular basis. However, the truth is that all 22 semi-autos have these problems to a greater or lesser extent, which can only be cured by a regular and thorough maintenance and cleaning regimes.

We Reckon:
• Very accurate
• Looks good
• Keep it clean

Technical Specifications
Name Remington 597 VTR-A2
Calibre 22 LR
Capacity 10 & 30 (DM)
Barrel 16”
Length 35 ½”
Threaded 1/2x20 UNF
Last round hold open Y
Sights N scope rail fitted
Price £748 (inc vat)
10-shot Mag is £15, 30-round £24 (clear or black)

All Prices Are Guides Due to the Changes in US & European Exchange Rates

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Remington 597 VTR-A2
Remington 597 VTR-A2
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Remington 597 VTR-A2
Remington 597 VTR-A2
Remington 597 VTR-A2
Remington 597 VTR-A2
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